PNE focus sharpens up

Paul Huntington
Paul Huntington
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Simon Grayson says that Preston North End’s focus on the start of the season will sharpen during their final two friendly games.

The Lilywhites play Burnley at Deepdale tonight (7.45pm) and then entertain Leicester City on Saturday.

In the five warm-up matches to date, PNE boss Grayson had done something of a balancing act in making sure all of the players got a similar amount of time on the pitch.

That has meant multiple substitutions and experiments with certain partnerships.

But the line-ups against the two Premier League newboys will have more of a flavour of Grayson’s intentions for when the season kicks-off.

Grayson said: “We are going into a spell where players need to be getting 80 or 90 minutes.

“One or two players did the 90 minutes at Morecambe on Friday night and now more of the squad need to do that.

“I have been trying to give everyone an equal amount of game time – there’s no point in them doing all the running work in training and then not getting on the pitch.

“In these next couple of games some players might not play as much because we are now thinking towards the start of the season.

“Then again, players can still catch my eye in training.

“People will look at the teams I put out in these games and think ‘he is going to start the season and he isn’t’.

“That isn’t necessarily the case but the joy of pre-season is everyone trying to work out what the side will be for the first game of the season.”

New recruits Andy Little, Calum Woods, Jamie Jones and Jordan Hugill will get the chance to get used to Deepdale in the next couple of games, all having made their home debuts in the Liverpool friendly 11 days ago.

The only players who are not available tonight are Lee Holmes, Paul Huntington and Kyel Reid.

Holmes is training with the physio as he recovers from a pectoral muscle injury and Reid continues his rehab after knee surgery.

Centre-half Huntington had an operation last Wednesday to repair a fractured wrist which he suffered during the Liverpool game.

He is expected to resume training next week wearing a light protective cast.

Grayson has been pleased with what he has seen from his players during pre-season, both in training and games.

The preparations now will focus on sharpness and tactics.

“As well as the games we have coming up, the training sessions will change slightly now,” said Grayson.

“We won’t be on the training ground quite as long, it is about sharpening up the players both physically and mentally.

“The work done so far was to get a base fitness but now it really starts building up.

“I will see the intensity increase every day in training because the players can feel the start of the season is just around the corner.

“As much as they have been trying to impress in the early games, it is in these next couple of weeks that they will want to catch my eye.

“It is fantastic that we have two more Premier League clubs coming to Deepdale, the games will be great test for our players.”